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The Great Journey: an expedition to explore the interior of the Middle Island, New Zealand, 1846-8

[January 1847]

January 1st, 1847. Proceeded this morning at a good pace, when unfortunately Epike's old wife was suddenly missing. We retraced our steps but did not find her till the evening. She said she had been struck by the Taipo 1, and did not know what she was doing until she came in sight of the remains of our last night's fire.

2nd. Reached the eel station in the Tiraumea, and camped for the night. 3rd. Awoke this morning under a heavy shower of rain, which drove us from our quarters to seek a shelter, which we contrived to make out of the bark of the manuka. 4th. Staying under our bark shelter, the river too high for proceeding. 5th. The river still an obstacle to our onward progress. I ascended the river, whence I could see the valley Tutaki and part of the Matukituki. A fine day.

The hills dividing the Tiraumea from the Tutaki are those to which the natives formerly resorted for

1 Devil.

page 23 the purpose of catching the kiwi and kakapo. These birds are now extinct here, having been destroyed by the wild dogs formerly belonging to the natives, but which have taken to the bush. Numbers of them are to be seen here.

At this place my two female travelling companions quarrelled and fought. Their husbands taking part in the combat, I had much difficulty in reconciling them, and persuading them to continue their journey.

6th. This morning found the weather changed into a regular soaking wet day. 7th. Raining incessantly the whole day.

8th. The sun has again made his appearance, dispersed the clouds, and, with the assistance of a south-wester, given us a fine day. Great fresh in the river. Collecting fern-root. 9th. A dull dirty day, with rain in showers.

10th. Very fine and warm. I again ascended a hill to the southward, but could see nothing but hills, or rather mountains, all round.

11th. Started this morning to wade the river Tiraumea. We passed the Mai, or waterfall, once celebrated as a kakapo station. Two or more persons crossing a river will find it much easier and safer to hold altogether by one long stick, using both hands, and holding it on the palm, the elbow downwards, the strongest of the party up the stream. The quicker you walk the better, taking care to keep the step of the leader. It is a curious feeling, particularly to your feet, which, from the force of the stream and the slipperiness of the stones, seem scarcely to touch the bottom. Made a good day's march, the river being warm and clear, and a very fine day overhead.

12th. The natives awoke me this morning to announce the approach of rain, which soon began to page 24 fall heavily, driving us from our quarters to wade the river in search of some hole or other place wherein we could stow ourselves, there being no materials for house-building on the spot. To improve my comfort I missed my footing and fell into a hole over my head. We found an overhanging rock, and managed to get through the night.

13th. Walked to Ekehu's first wari1 in the Matukituki valley2, on the banks of the Buller. The rocky gorges through which the Buller runs up to this point now cease for about six miles, and the mountains receding, leave a valley called Matukituki, into which open two others; the Tutaki, running parallel to the Tiraumea, and separated from it by a mountain ridge on one side; and the Matiri on the north; each contributing its river to swell the waters of the Buller. The Matiri is a valley of considerable size, and, from its length and direction, I imagine the mountains which form its upper extremity must be the dividing ridge separating it from the valley of the Takaka opening into Massacre Bay. Fine day.

14th. Waiting for an abatement of the fresh in the river. Fine day.

15th. Started for the ford where Mr Fox was carried down, which we found much deeper than when we formerly crossed it; we all, however, reached the other side in safety, and proceeded to the next fall, which was much changed, and caused us all to drop our loads and look for another. We, however, could find none; so Ekehu agreed to go over first, and then return, if possible; he did so, partly swimming, partly wading. We then agreed to venture, all five holding

1 Whare, house.

2 Murchison settlement. The Buller tributary is now known as Matakitaki.

page 25 our stick, taking off all our clothes, and securing our loads high on our shoulders: the river in some places ran just mouth high, with a powerful current. We, however, reached the other side, having well wetted our clothes and loads.

16th. Walked on to my former return station, and repaired a house there. 17th. Spent in drying our clothes and kits.

18th. Finished making a kupanga, or net, which is about fifty feet by four. In the evening took a draught of about fifty good-sized fish with it, called the upukuroro 1, or fresh-water herring.

19th. Collected a quantity of the roots of the ti, or cabbage-tree, which we placed in a humu2, or native oven, for the night. The natives prepare a very palatable dish of the ti and fern-root. They extract the sweet particles of the former by beating and washing it in a proper quantity of water, and when about the consistency of honey they soak in the liquid some layers of well-beaten and cooked fern-root, which, when properly moistened, is eaten, and has a similar relish to gingerbread. This can only be made when staying two or three days at a station. The root of the ti is the part used by the natives. It is generally from three to four feet long, and of a conic shape, with an immense number of long fibrous roots attached to it; so that the natives, whose tools consist of a pointed stick, and their hands, consider they have done a glorious day's work if they manage to obtain five ti roots in the day. It requires an immense oven, and to remain twelve hours baking. Fine day.

20th. This morning opened our oven, which smelled like a sugar-boiling establishment. Found the ti

1 Upokororo, grayling.

2 Umu.

page 26 excellent, but rather too sweet for a diet; however, this and the fish make a fine meal.

21st. Collecting fern-root. Collecting fern-root is very difficult, there being but a very small quantity eatable, and that the oldest, or deepest growth. Unfortunately my spade broke, so we had no tool but a pointed stick. Day showery.

22nd. Drying our fern-root, and making straps and baskets for the better carrying our loads. Fine day. 23rd. We have caught about 150 fish this week with our net, a great portion of which we have salted and dried for our future subsistence. Sunday, 24th. Kept as a Sunday. Exceedingly warm.

25th. Having thus by a week's halt laid in a store of provisions, we packed our stores and kits and crossed the river again in the manner I have before described. We got our kits wet, redried them, and walked about three miles down the northern bank of the river. From this point the country was quite new both to myself and my companions, and I found the river assumed an entirely different character, being deep and still, flowing over and between large granite rocks, and through a black birch country. Before, it abounded in eels, but we found none amongst the granite rocks or anything else fit to eat in the black birch forest; neither were there any ducks, and but few other birds.

26th. This morning the day looked dirty, and we almost determined to return to our old quarters in the Matukituki; but the general opinion was in favour of proceeding, and we therefore commenced climbing along our granite path. Towards the afternoon we had occasional showers, but we kept pushing on, and just before dusk reached a large ana, or hole in the rocks, where we put up for the night. The rain soon began page 27 to fall so heavily that we were all afraid of being drowned in our shelter before morning by the rising of the river.

27th. This morning at day-break we had to turn out of our cave, it being no longer safe, the fresh having risen to the threshold. We then built a bark house, and moved into it. Continual heavy rain. Having selected a dry spot for a house, we could find no materials for roofing it except the bark of the tawai, or black birch; this being heavy, requires a strong framework. To break the bark, Ekehu cuts it all round, and then with a chisel-pointed stick loosens it and breaks it off, which he generally does about twelve feet long. This bark forms a good roof when new, but soon curls with the heat of fire or a few dry days.

28th. Steady rain throughout the day. 29th. Heavy rain. Great fresh in river. 30th. Rain all day. 31st. Towards eve the wind changed, and gave us once more a peep of the sun.